CLAS Convocation

2004 Convocation

Address by Stephanie Abrams

Good evening! I would first like to thank the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for inviting me, it is an honor to be here. I would also like to congratulate each and every one of you on your accomplishments here at the University of Florida.

I am sure it has been a tough fall semester with classes being cancelled and other events being postponed, like this one, due to the unprecedented hurricane season. I think it is fair to say that most people in this room suffered in some way from the storms that affected Florida. Like many of you and your families, I encountered the hurricanes head-on and spent most of August and September back here in my home state, trying to help people prepare so they could be safe from Mother Nature.

So how did it all happen? How did I go from being an average student at UF to giving live reports from the eye of a hurricane on national television? Well, not to long ago I was just like you. I was studying for three finals, while working on a project, cheering on the Gators at The Swamp, stuffing my face with Leonardo’s pizza, painting the 34th street wall, and reading the “Alligator” while walking to class. I remember being right here in University Auditorium and sitting in those very seats you’re in. So to answer the questions I asked before I started reminiscing about my college years, how did it all happen? It’s all about passion.

Think about it…..when you are passionate about something, you work hard at it. During Florida/Florida State, don’t you scream just a little bit louder? When you are a point away form an “A” in that calc class, don’t you study just a little bit longer? No matter what you are passionate about, when you really want something, I mean really want it, you will do whatever it takes to achieve it. I wanted to be a meteorologist.

This hurricane season was very trying, both physically and emotionally. I’m sure it was hard for you and your families.

When you report from a hurricane, you work under tough conditions. There is no electricity, we eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly and granola bars, and of course wash it down with Gatorade. We are away from our families, and in my case, my family was going through the storms in West Palm Beach. It was almost impossible to get in touch with them. It’s a helpless feeling not to be able to talk to those you love and know they’re safe.

We are out in the elements for hours at a time, getting soaked by the rain and blown around by the wind until it gets too dangerous, then we go inside. We’re coordinating with producers back at The Weather Channel about what we’ll be telling viewers. We get very little sleep, if any. The sleep we do get occurs when it gets so bad outside that you can no longer stand. But as many of you know, it is very hard to sleep with the howling winds of a hurricane. So running on very little sleep over a period of several days and fighting the elements, you try your best to think straight and get out clear and concise information, because you know there are countless people relying on you to give them facts about what’s going on. So, why do I put myself through all of that? Because I am passionate about it.

I am passionate about helping people and educating people about the weather. As rough as it got I wasn’t going to quit. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to help people and let them know that I would be there no matter what the conditions were outside.

My whole life I was encouraged to choose a field that I loved, something that stimulated my mind. Meteorology does that for me and more. I am constantly learning and being challenged because weather is forever changing. You can talk to almost anyone, and those who enjoy their jobs will tell you they don’t really think of it as work. They love what they do and are passionate about it.

In order to achieve your goals you must be patient, persistent and you must communicate. It is always better to ask questions, otherwise you’ll find yourself a step behind the competition. Understanding breeds confidence and that goes a long way in helping you excel in the classroom and at work. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors. They have office hours for a reason. They are there to help you succeed, but you have to take advantage of it. If I had not visited Dr. Waylen’s office as frequently as I had, then he might not have remembered who I was and I wouldn’t be speaking with you today. It never hurts to ask for a recommendation either. You never know when one might come in handy. Plus, you never know who your professors know; maybe their neighbor’s brother’s sister-in-law’s great uncles knows how to get you an interview or better yet a job.

In closing, my advice to you is to find something you are passionate about. No matter what your dream is, or what people might say, or how discouraged you might become at times. If you are truly passionate about it, then pursue it with vigor. You will succeed.

I found that when you find something you love, no matter how hard it is, it doesn’t feel like work. You might think the tests are over when you graduate, but you will be tested throughout your entire life and no matter how hard life and school might seem, once you make it through the storm it only gets better and you will be a stronger person.

Thank you and congratulations to you all! Go Gators!

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